July's Travel Article

You can learn and enjoy so much with a walk in the park. No, not your local park but the Peak District National Park.

The Peak District was Britain's first national park, established in 1951 and can be found mainly in the county of Derbyshire and also parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.

It covers 1,438 square kilometres – but enough of the facts and figures, what's the place actually like?

 

Well, to give you a flavour of the Peak District my wife and I embarked on a circular walk which included a visit to North America, a glass of ale which could have been named after a Hollywood superstar and then followed it up with a trip to a plague village!

See, who needs facts and figures when you can add such spicy ingredients as these.

So let's begin at the beginning. A warm but cloudy day at a tiny little village at the very northern tip of the Peak District called Langsett.

The big Northern cities of Manchester and Sheffield are close by but you wouldn't believe it judging by the peaceful, green surroundings. Our walk actually kicks off from a tree covered car park at Langsett Barn. It's four and a quarter miles long so the only necessities are sturdy walking boots and plenty of water.

Within minutes of leaving the car park we pass through a small gate and into a beautiful sheltered woodland, the sort of place that can be magical for adults and children alike (depending of course on your imagination).

After about a mile a glance to the left reveals the glistening waters of Langsett Reservoir below us.

Although this is popular walking territory – nearby is the Cut Gate bridleway, one of the oldest rights of ways in the Peak District – there are very few people around which is how we like it.

After a short but enjoyable detour through Langsett Reservoir Woods which includes passing an old stone outbuilding ('Swinden', according to the OS map), we return to our designated track and cross a bridge over the Little Don River.

Time we thought for a game of Pooh sticks but the dry summer weather does not allow enough pace in the water for the game to commence. Pooh!

But never mind, there are plenty of joyful sights ahead because suddenly we head upwards to find ourselves at the edge of a wonderfully expansive moorland.

Although we are a fair bit south of the Yorkshire equivalent it's the sort of landscape that would certainly do justice to Heathcliffe and Cathy – wild and barren, stretching miles ahead of us to a distant horizon.

We eventually reach a couple of stone stoops standing on their own and, following our directions, veer left on a wide path through the heather.

And lo and behold after about 600 yards we arrive – as promised – at North America!

I suppose at this point I must explain so save readers further confusion.

North America is, or to put it more accurately, was North America Farm. Apparently in olden days (whenever that actually was!), farms were sometimes called after distant places and so the story goes, this is probably what happened here.

However progress saw an end to that because when the reservoir was built at the start of the last century, all the farms in the vicinity were emptied because the water authority did not want to run the risk of the water being polluted.

Hence all that is left of North America these days is some rocky ruins – a bit like that climatic scene in Planet of the Apes! So we bade our farewell to North America – and a cluster of sheep nibbling away amongst the rocks - and moved on, crossing a bridge over Thickwoods Brook (but still not enough water for Pooh sticks!) and onwards and upwards along a grassy track towards Upper Midhope.

A few turns later and we were down by the side of reservoir and strolled along the road at the side of its embankment before returning to the car park.

Now what's the best treatment for aching feet? Why a pint of best British beer of course!

So with much haste – or as much as possible on the narrow, winding, country lanes, we hotfooted it along to the Strines Inn at nearby Bradfield Moor.

If you are looking for a history lesson to supplement your pint then this is certainly the place.

Apparently the Strines began life as a manor house for a local farming family in 1275. It was then rebuilt in the 1560s but did not become an inn until 1771.

Strines is an old English word meaning meetings of water. The inn is 1,000 feet above sea level and has eight reservoirs around it.

Sat in its quaint olde worlde bar watched over by an array of stuffed animals including foxes and owls, we continued our North American theme with a couple of pints of Bogart's Standard Pioneer, quite rightly described as a 'distinctive and refreshing ale'.

Pausing in the car park only to say farewell to a couple of marauding peacocks, we then continued our journey south, this time to a location with a very deadly past!

Eyam has no qualms about calling itself the plague village. Perversely, it's what brings the tourists in.

You see, an unfortunate business transaction left its chilling legacy on this quaint Derbyshire village way, way back in August 1665.

The bubonic plaque was brought to Eyam in a flea-infected bundle of clothes that was delivered to tailor George Viccars from London.

Rather than see the disease spread to surrounding towns and villages the Rector, the Reverend William Mompesson, helped by Puritan minister Reverend Thomas Stanley, decreed that Eyam should isolate itself.

The result was that this very nasty disease raged for 16 months killing at least 260 villagers.

At the end, there were only 83 survivors out of 350.

These days visitors from all over the world throng to Eyam where the local museum ironically sports a rat as its weathervane. English humour hey!

You can also see plaques outside some of the plague cottages including the cottage where George Viccars was the first victim on September 7, 1665.

On that happy note, our journey to the Peak District was concluded and it was time for home.

But we will be back! And maybe this time we can find Russia tucked away in some leafy dale.

Note - "A walk in the park" is an idiom. But do you know what it means? Find out here.